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De Maiziere and German states bicker over deportations to Afghanistan

The German interior minister has accused states who refuse to deport rejected asylum seekers of going behind his back. Whether Afghanistan is safe enough to send people back is a contentious issue in the Germany.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere criticized German states that refuse to deport rejected Afghan asylum seekers in an interview on public broadcaster "ARD" on Monday night. He said that the states had neglected to address the topic at a recent meeting. The German government's stance, one contested by several states, is that parts of Afghanistan are sufficiently safe to send people back there.

"Back then, the states said that they weren't experts on foreign policy," de Maiziere said. "They said that they wanted and had to rely on the national government to evaluate certain countries." De Maiziere criticized Schleswig-Holstein specifically for refusing to follow the national government's guidelines without talking to him first.

Germany's most northern state had declared last week that it would stop all deportations to Afghanistan for three months - the maximum amount of time states are allowed to halt deportations without Berlin's permission.

Afghanistan: safe or not?

Deutschland - Proteste in Köln und Düsseldorf gegen die Deportation nach Afghanistan (E. Hadid)

A young boy carries a sign saying 'Afghanistan is not safe!' at a demonstration against deportations on February 11

In Germany, there has been a tense debate over whether rejected asylum seekers should be deported to Afghanistan. The federal German administration has come under fire - including from its own human rights commissioner - because it considers parts of Afghanistan safe even though much of the country is caught in battles between Taliban fighters and state troops, and terror attacks are frequent.

De Maiziere defended the national government's stance on Afghanistan. "We know of course that the safety situation is complicated, but there are safe areas," he told ARD's evening news show "Tagesthemen," saying that the north of the country and capital Kabul were relatively peaceful. 

Stefan Studt, the interior minister for Schleswig-Holstein, criticized this stance in an interview on the same program on Monday. "If Mr. de Maiziere says that there are safe regions [in Afghanistan] and I ask him where these are, and he does not give me a precise answer, then I cannot see how it's supposed to be safe there." 

Schleswig-Holsteins Innenminister Stefan Studt (SPD) (picture-alliance/dpa/C. Rehder)

Stefan Studt said De Maiziere could not specify what regions of Afghanistan were safe

Schleswig-Holstein said its decision to halt deportations was based on a December 2016 report from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), which found that the security situation in Afghanistan had significantly worsened throughout 2016 and that "no differentiation between 'safe' and 'unsafe' territories" was possible.

Five German states halted deportations

Since Berlin came to an agreement with the Kabul administration last October, allowing group deportations via chartered flights, Germany has deported a total of 59 rejected Afghan asylum seekers.

Five German states have refused to deport rejected asylum seekers to the country (mostly with the exemption of those who have a criminial record). The 11 remaining states deport Afghans, though most have some imposed restrictions - refusing for example to deport children, women or families.

There is a total of over 200,000 foreigners obligated to leave the country currently living in Germany, though roughly 150,000 of those deportation orders have been temporarily suspended.

mb/msh (AFP, dpa, epd, KNA)

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